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Law Lecture Provokes Themes of Today

Professor Casto speaking at the podium in the Moot Courtroom (Photo by Trevor Jones / Ohio Northern University).

Professor William R. Casto of the Texas Tech University School of Law spoke to students and faculty in the Moot Courtroom about legal advising to presidents and how the example of attorney General Robert H. Jackson is still relevant for students in school now.

Casto’s presentation recounted history mainly during the administration of President Franklin D Roosevelt before during the great depression and before the outbreak of the Second World War and attorney General Robert H. Jackson’s role in advising the president.

Questions regarding what the president could and could not do legally under the constitution were a common theme with the examples of FDR’s firing the Tennessee Valley Authority Chairman during his term and the president’s ability to wire tap citizens during the 1930’s.   

Casto’s research on the relationship between Jackson and FDR brought out the question “What does the attorney do when the attorney is advising the president on sensitive issues,” Casto explained.

That question brings out the idea that when counseling the president there is deference between what the lawyer tells the president and what he tells the public.  In private Jackson gave FDR the rough and uncensored legal advice he needed.  But Jackson revealed less and easier to digest information to the public. 

In light of the election of Donald Trump as President, the topic also roused discussion about what the president is allowed to do, even though they are president.

Law faculty members Richard Bales and Dr. Scott Gerber held a brief back and forth discussion with Casto about the implications of President-Elect Trump saying that he would bring a special prosecutor against Hillary Clinton for the email scandal.  Casto stood on his position that prosecuting the loser in a presidential election could start a tradition of punishing those who don’t win major elections and create a cycle of this behavior.

Casto connected the issue of legal advice to the president to doing normal advising to citizens not in office.  Jackson was not a yes man to the president, standing against FDR on issues like J Edgar Hoover “Suicide Squad”.  Jackson also never duped the president and told him his honest and straight forward opinion. 

Casto spoke on his purpose in speaking on Jackson and presidential advising, “To have a very realistic view of what the advisory process is like and to understand that it is not just a matter of saying this is what the law is and this is what you should do,” Also adding, “You’ve got to let your client know the pluses and minuses and take a positon with your client.  But you’ve got to give caveats in private.” 

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